Sam Rainsy Party to Mark 14th Anniversary of Partisan Violence

The Sam Rainsy Party is scheduled to hold a ceremony today marking the 14th anniversary of the partisan violence of 1997.

During deadly street battles in Phnom Penh on July 5 and 6, 1997, forces loyal to then-second Prime Minister Hun Sen routed forces loyal to then-first Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

SRP lawmaker Kimsour Phirith said yesterday that the party held a Buddhist ceremony each year to commemorate the death of Fun­cinpec fighters. “They fought for democracy here,” Mr Phirith said. “It was a huge fight for democracy in Phnom Penh.”

However, officials from the one-time warring factions said they were letting the anniversary pass unmarked.

Thieng Vandarong, permanent committee member of Funcinpec, said that they would not mark the anniversary this month to avoid disrupting their current partnership with the CPP. “We will hold a ceremony on Pchum Ben day,” Mr Van­­darong said. “We have never forgotten the dead.”

Pen Sangha, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said they would not mark the anniversary and accused the SRP of having the ceremony for political profit. “It should be Funcinpec Party holding this event,” Mr Sangha said.

Mr Phirith denied that the SRP was trying to use the ceremony to garner political support.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the CPP never marked the an­­­­niversary but declined to elaborate. Mr Yeap said that the SRP held the ceremony because they took any opportunity to go against the ruling party. “It is the behavior of the opposition party,” Mr Yeap said. “They have the right to hold the event.”

The CPP consolidated its political power in the aftermath of its military victory during the July 1997 fighting, with Prince Rana­­riddh ousted and more than 100 reported cases of extrajudicial killing in the royalist camp. Funcinpec later described the street battles as a planned coup d’etat by Hun Sen’s forces, but the CPP claimed it had prevented a coup attempted by Prince Ranariddh’s forces.


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